COLUMBIA, S.C. – Junior Janiah McKay scored 27 points and Auburn clawed back from a big early deficit, but the Tigers fell short to No. 9 South Carolina 71-63 Thursday night in front of 12,011 fans at Colonial Life Arena.
The Tigers (10-6, 1-3 SEC) found themselves trailing by as many as 22 points early in the second quarter but continued to chip away throughout the remainder of the game, pulling as close as six points midway through the fourth quarter. But the Gamecocks (14-2, 3-1) held on despite being outscored 53-41 over the final three periods.
“If you take away the first quarter, we win the second quarter, we win the third quarter, and we lose by one in the fourth quarter,” Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “It’s very hard to get down like that. We’ve made the run, we have come back, but when you’re playing on the road, in this type of environment, against this type of team, that’s tough.”
McKay’s 27 points led all scorers on the night and were two shy of a career-high. She was 8-of-18 from the field and 11-of-13 from the free-throw line. Her streak of 20 consecutive made free throws came to an end, but she has now made 25 of her last 27 dating back to the Florida game.
Sophomore Daisa Alexander chipped in 17 points with seven coming in the fourth quarter. She was a perfect 5-for-5 at the free throw line and has yet to miss from the charity stripe in SEC play. Freshman Unique Thompson led the Tigers with 11 rebounds, and senior Jazmine Jones added 8 points and 5 rebounds.
Auburn found itself in a deep hole after the first quarter as Carolina jumped out to a 30-10 lead. The Tigers cut that to 17 points by halftime at 42-25.
But two runs by Auburn – a 10-0 run followed by a 9-0 run late in the quarter – reduced the Gamecock lead to just seven points at 55-48 after three quarters. The latter run included a 6-point trip down the court, thanks to a technical foul on South Carolina, helping Auburn cut a 16-point deficit to seven.
The Tigers would get as close as six points at 62-56 on a McKay layup with 5:35 to play. But Carolina would go on a 6-0 run over the next three minutes to put the game out of reach.
Auburn forced South Carolina into a season-high 20 turnovers, converting those into 20 points. For the game, the Tigers shot 37 percent (22-of-60) while South Carolina was 51 percent (25-of-49), including a blistering 73 percent in the first quarter to build their early lead.
A’ja Wilson led South Carolina with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Tyasha Harris added 12 points and 11 assists.
The Tigers are back at Auburn Arena on Sunday afternoon to face the Arkansas Razorbacks. Game time is 4 p.m. CT with the broadcast on WTGZ 93.9 FM and SEC Network.